Six-year-old Ibrahimah loves snatching pastries from his mother’s kitchen, harvesting string beans with his father, and searching for sea glass with his sisters. But when he is approached in his rural village one day by Marabout Ahmed, a seemingly kind stranger and highly regarded teacher, the tides of his life turn forever.
... unflinching and poignant ... Bush writes that she based her novel on observations made during the four years she lived and worked in Dakar; that authenticity rings through the book ... Bush manages to spin a tale threaded with kindness, love and even magic while showing us the hardships Ibrahimah endures ... These small but significant acts of human decency and kindness made me love this book. As someone who lived in an unheated apartment and worked in a factory as a child in New York City, I often find narratives that revel in the more sensationalistic aspects of poverty to be inauthentic and exploitative. Yes, there are innumerable hardships, humiliations and suffering, and we as authors must not flinch from them. But there are also moments of joy and love, strangers who astonish with unexpected generosity; there are fellow sufferers who share what little they own. Bush walks that line — portraying the bad without aggrandizement and illuminating the good without sentimentality ... As readers encountering this narrative of extreme poverty and suffering, we are confronted by our own limitations.
... a heartbreaking story of loss, love, and family ... Bush also takes deft aim at religious hypocrisy ... Bush is an adept storyteller; she spins out the colorful world of Dakar, and captures the sights and sounds of Ibrahimah’s home village, Saloulou, as well as the streets of the more industrialized Ouakam. You can nearly smell the ocean and hear the sizzle of meat over an open flame ... While Bush is certainly a talented writer, there are certain parts of No Heaven for Good Boys that don’t quite fit together. The chapters—which switch between the points of view of Ibrahimah, Étienne, Maimouna, and even Ahmed—sometimes become disjointed. Bush does an excellent job of fleshing out Maimouna’s character, but Ibrahimah, despite being the focal point of the book, still reads as somewhat flat. Furthermore, there are many random American cultural references ... despite the physical and emotional abuse in the novel, there is an immense sense of beauty and love in it as well. Bush’s writing and compelling storytelling will envelope you, until you realize you’ve spent hours lost in the streets of Dakar with Ibrahimah and Étienne.
... heart-wrenching prose ... Although the relentlessly bleak story doesn’t sustain a full narrative arc, Bush portrays a vibrant Dakar, including a wrenching street view from the eyes of the children. A tearjerker with touches of magical realism, however monochromatic, Bush’s tale is darkly revelatory.